Branded vs keyword domains

Branded vs keyword domains

Discover the domain name dilemma: branded domains vs keyword domains- which suits your brand's online presence?

Test

Written by

Robert Grainge

Published

16 December 2022

Categories

Acquisition

Marketing

SEO

The domain name dilemma

When it comes to getting noticed, making an impression, and lifting brand recall, two distinct types of domain names often compete for your consideration – keyword and branded domains.

While keyword domains may be easier to find using search, branded domains can help you stand out from the crowd and build your business’ reputation.

Keep reading to learn more about the benefits and drawbacks of each option so you can make an informed decision about which one will help you achieve your goals.

Brand domains vs keyword domains

When it comes to choosing between a branded domain and a keyword domain, there are pros and cons to each. Many a marketer has grappled with these two rival approaches, so I’m here to give you the latest on what I consider to be best practice.

Keyword Domains

Keyword domains contain keywords related to the business or product. These types of domains are often recommended as a way to boost search engine optimisation (SEO), but more on that later.

On the ‘cons’ side, they can be difficult to brand and are often generic.

Branded Domains

Branded domains are based on the company or product’s name. They’re usually easier to remember, so they’re helpful in branding efforts. For example, if your pet store is called “Paws and Claws”, you would use ‘pawsandclaws.com’ as your branded domain. A keyword domain, on the other hand, would use keywords related to your business or industry, ‘petstoresydney.com’, for example.

5 Branded Domain Benefits

  • Choosing a branded domain can appear more professional and trustworthy. Prospective clients or customers can put a name to your product or service, and you sidestep looking generic and – potentially unalluring – as a result.
  • A branded domain name keeps your brand front of mind. The more often someone sees or hears your brand name, the more likely they are to remember it, build an association with it and develop a preference for it.
  • If you have a strong branding strategy in place, then using a branded domain name will maintain consistency with everything else that relates to your company.
  • It’s essential to consider the long-term when picking a domain name. It would be difficult for sites with specific keywords in their domains to shift gears and mix up their business proposition as they build and diversify, so it makes sense not just to match what you’re offering today but to use a domain name that can support your business’s growth over time.
  • Branded domains are more memorable than keyword-rich domain names. When people see an unfamiliar generic website address, they’re unlikely to remember it. They’re much more likely to remember your company’s name or a well-thought-out branded domain.

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS

Cost
As with all upsides, they have their not-as-good counterparts. In the ‘cons’ corner, registering a branded domain can be more costly than writing a keyword-rich one.

Make Sure You Match
It can be harder to rank well if your website’s content doesn’t match the keywords in your domain name. Your SEO strategy should consider that to ensure that your visibility is maximised.

Potential Ranking Factors
If a user in your location radius searches ‘pet store’, pawsandclaws.com will most likely appear in their search results (especially if you’re on top of your Google Business Profile), but petstore.com could achieve a higher rank.

Many other factors play into ranking positions; however, this is only a factor if the store with the generic domain also has a fast site with quality, up-to-date content, for example.

"Pick Something for the Long Term"

While speculation has always been rife that keyword domains can contribute to better visibility in the search rankings, there are other factors you should weigh up that can also have an impact on your SERPs.

In 2020, Google’s Webmaster Trends Analyst, John Mueller, didn’t pull any punches when he told SEO-ers and business owners that keywords domains add no ranking benefit.

“Just because a website has a keyword in its domain name doesn’t mean that it’s more relevant than others for that keyword. In short, you don’t need to put keywords in the domain name”, he said.

Mueller stance hasn’t shifted. When asked if there was any merit in using keyword domains I July 2022 he said,

“Keywords in domain names are overrated in my opinion. Pick something for your business; pick something for the long term”.

How to Pick a Domain Name

(And get it right!)

Founder and former CEO of moz.com, Rand Fishkin, has some guiding principles to help you choose a marketing-friendly domain name.

Keep it simple

Look for a domain name that is both real and unusual. Make sure it is easy to spell and pronounce. The best way to test this is show ten people the written down version and ask them to say the name and get another ten people to write the name down after they hear you say it. If 90% or more get it right, you’re on the right track!

Tweak if it's taken

This is arguably Rand’s most valuable principle. Circumvent a few of the issues you’ll learn about in the points below by giving preference to a name that yields few or no exact or similar Google results. You’ll lower the probability of trademark infringement and it’s a good indicator that the country’s TLD will be available as well as the handle within social media.

If your brand name is taken, make simple tweaks until you land on something that’s available. If you were the owner of the fictional pet store referred to earlier, but Paws and Claws was taken by another pet business you might look at pawsclawspets.com, pawsclawsstore.com or pawsnclaws.com, for example.

Consider associations and connotations

Be careful when choosing a domain name because it can be easy to accidentally choose one that is associated with another company or product. For example, if you choose a domain name like ‘KatterAxe’ people might think your company is related to eye problems, which probably isn’t the image you are going for.

Avoid trademark infringements

Countries like Australia, UK and the US all have a directory to reference when forming a company/brand name. Double (and triple) check them before you lock in your choice.

Top-level country domains

Top-level country domains such as .com (US) or .com.au (AU) provoke trust. Rands advises against alternative extensions such as .info due to the association with spammy websites.

As of June 2022, 52.8% of the internet uses .com domain extensions and new options like .io, .tech, .site and .store, for example, are emerging all the time but they have a way to go before they build the same credibility level of .com domains and those similar.

According to these research findings by ICANN-accredited domain name registrar Namecheap:

• 55.8% of respondents still trust companies and websites with .com, .net, and .org domain extensions more than those with newer domain extensions like .club, .website, .online, .store

• 78.9% would choose the onlinepayments.com website to pay for the bills while 28.9% would choose payments .online and 16.5% onlinepayments. finance.

• 71.7.% would choose the laptops.com website to research or read about laptops, although 56.4% would choose laptops. tech

Same same, but social

Verify that the name you want hasn’t already been taken on social media.

Check all the major platforms and any others you plan to be active on. Having social media handles like your domain name – or, at a minimum, closely related – makes it easier for your audience members to locate you. Additionally, it builds credibility, strengthens brand recall, and fosters trust in potential customers.

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Choose your domain with confidence

By following the tips and best practices I’ve outlined here, your site will be easy to find online, and your domain name will support and complement your brand. You’ll also enjoy the flexibility to diversify and grow, and stay out of legal trouble – wins I’m sure you’ll agree are worthy of the couple of minutes it took you to read this how-to.

You might find that the domain you come up with is taken, but that’s okay. Revisit the ‘tweak if it’s taken’ point and keep iterating until you inevitably find an available option that ticks the boxes.

Go forth and choose your domain with confidence, knowing that you’ve got all the tools and tips to weigh up all the domain options, set your site and socials up for success, and avoid headaches down the track.


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Written by

Robert Grainge
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